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Untimely or missing test results could result in women with a particularly aggressive form of early stage breast cancer not receiving optimal treatment.
The North of England Cancer Network carried out an audit of HER2 testing, with only a quarter of the 200 clinicians surveyed saying that test results were routinely available when a decision was being made about whether a patient would benefit from chemotherapy given in conjunction with the HER2-targeted treatment trastuzumab.
Trials have shown that women with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer are at double the risk of their cancer returning during the first few years after diagnosis if they do not receive adjuvant trastuzumab with their chemotherapy.
Dr Mark Verrill, consultant oncologist at Newcastle General Hospital, said: “For women with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer, chemotherapy with trastuzumab offers patients the best chance of a cure.
“Without fail-safe mechanisms in place to ensure that HER2 status is known, there is a chance that women who may benefit from this treatment will not receive it, putting them at significantly greater risk of their cancer coming back during the first few years after diagnosis.”
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